Justice for Laughing Boy - Connor Sparrowhawk: A death by indifference

October 20, 2017

Book Review



A story of love, hate, power, weakness, pain and shear strength.  From the very first chapter you’re hooked.  Even those who somehow might never have heard of Connor and his story would not be able to put this book down.

This is a beautifully written heart wrenching tale that never should have had to be told. 


Sara Ryan - mum, research director and learning disability specialist, tells a story filled with raw grief, anger and frustration, punctuated with tales of the joy and wonder that was Connor.  Right from the beginning the reader feels a closeness with Connor and his family as your taken on a journey through time, sharing in Connor’s quirks, his growing up and the trials and tribulations he faced just to belong.


Reading this without shedding a tear, or havening a little shudder, may be impossible.  Connor’s story has touched many countless of people’s lives worldwide, even before the massive failings that resulted in his death.


This book provides a valuable insight into the failing of our health service in providing care for people like Connor. It highlights how difficult it can be to receive appropriate help and provisions for people with learning disabilities in our society.  And how near impossible it is to begin an inquest into avoidable deaths. 


This book could become an immensely valuable tool for others in similar situations who do not know who to go to or what to do if they feel a loved one has been unjustly treated while in the care of health services.  Sara provides particularly helpful footnotes on some pages with links to web sites, articles or publications for information and reference.


Justice for Laughing Boy shows the amazing love, support and spirit of such a diverse range of people, and how they are prepared to give anything to fight for a cause they believe in.

I was particularly disheartened to read how this NHS trust showed a complete lack of regard to families of those in their care.  The NHS, and really all care organisations, need to understand the importance of family as being the ‘experts’ in some people’s care and I think Sara has portrayed this well.


The detailed account of the inquest that finally occurred into Connor’s death was a fascinating, if not harrowing insight into the workings of such an inquest and highlighted the enormous scale of this problem in our society.  If it is this difficult to procure an inquest into the death of a person with Learning Disabilities, how many people have been missed…


Towards the end of the book Sara wonders what effect, if any, Connor’s beautiful face being beamed into people’s lives over BBC breakfast would have.  I remember clearly seeing this story on the TV for the first time.   I was at the beginning of my journey to becoming a learning disability nurse and wondering if I was doing the right thing as a mature student returning to studying.  Connor’s story helped me decide that this was very much the right thing to do.  I will be a qualified learning disability nurse by mid-2018 and this story will forever stay with me as I fight for the rights of people with learning disabilities where I live.


This story has been, and will continue to be taught, to countless students and organisations.  Many, like myself, will be wondering; ‘what good can we do? How can we change the way things are?’, and we will know that we can help, we can fight for justice and we can change the way our more vulnerable friends are cared for.  We will fight and we will win and this story will help us do that.

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